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Pro-reparations group calls for dismissal of lawsuit against Evanston program

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Reparations United and its executive director, Kamm Howard, have come to the defense of Evanston’s reparations program amid a lawsuit that alleges the city’s use of race to determine benefits is unconstitutional.

A May 30 news release from Howard and the group argues the suit, filed by the conservative group, Judicial Watch, should be dismissed outright. It states the program is constitutional because the funding is being given in compensation for decades of racial housing policies. Howard also pushes back against assertions in the lawsuit that state reparations are not needed because no law was broken during the time Black families were impacted by redlining.

“The lawsuit should be thrown out on its face! As well as those who wrote it!” the news release says.

Howard linked the push for reparations to the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism, which designated the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery, apartheid and colonialism as crimes against humanity. He argues this then became the basis for reparations efforts like those in Evanston as rectification for past crimes.

Evanston’s program focuses on Jim Crow era housing policies, a parallel to apartheid, according to Howard. The program began with restorative housing where eligible applicants could apply for $25,000 to use for home repairs, a down payment on a home or mortgage assistance. It has since expanded to provide direct cash payments, which quickly became the most popular option.

Howard argues the program is based on the areas of Evanston where redlining took place, mainly in the city’s 5th Ward, which remains an area with a substantial minority population.

“Those who were not housed in the red-lined zone have no eligibility for redress — not because they are not of the same ethnicity as the lawsuit suggests, but because their ancestors did not reside in the designated area,” Howard wrote. “No victimization, no eligibility.”

The city has stated it does not comment on pending litigation but will “vehemently defend any lawsuit” brought against the program.

Judicial Watch argues the city didn’t prove there was a violation of law that existed during redlining, but Howard states there are several reasons that doesn’t hold water.

He says redlining policies have “ongoing and continuing character,” meaning the impacts of the law extended beyond their life. The 5th Ward still hosts lower housing values than other areas of the city with higher interest rates, lower credit scores and a lack of generational wealth. Howard argues this is due to the location and impacts of living there, not the race of those living there.

Howard also stated interpretation of those laws has changed, with initial arguments for it stating Jim Crow was “societal discrimination” but now being understood as calculated measures. He further argued that just because the law was legal at the time, doesn’t mean it was right. This would constitute, according to Howard, a non-law or flawed law.

“Law, for it to be law, must have been ‘established to serve justice,’” he said. “The laws of enslavement and apartheid were, on the contrary, established to create an unjust, violent, and terror-backed social, economic, and political order, in conjunction with, denying justice to those it victimized.”

Judicial Watch has stated it stands by its previous comments on the issue.

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